- I would like to read Margaret Atwood’s Hag-Seed one day. But I have never seen any productions of The Tempest and don’t really know the story very well.
- I have never read a play before that I had not already seen a theatre, movie or TV production of (I don’t count seeing Return to the Forbidden Planet in 1991 at the Cambridge theatre, London, as I remember absolutely nothing about it!)
Save for the son that she did litter here,
A feckled whelp hag-born.
This island’s mine, by Sycorax my mother,
The only thing I really gleaned about Caliban is that his mother was called Sycorax and she was banished to the island pregnant and unmarried. I’m not sure who the father was, but Caliban is certainly the quintessential bastard son. He was living on the island alone, when Prospero and Miranda arrived. They took him in, cared for him, used his knowledge of the island, then took offence when he wanted to make babies with Miranda [‘Thou didst prevent me. I had peopled else this isle with Calibans.’] It would be very easy to view this play through a post-colonialism lens.
There is much speculation about the name Caliban. The predominate one being that it is an anagram of canibal (Spanish spelling) with more than a passing nod to Montaigne’s essay Of Cannibal.
One of Caliban’s most famous speeches (below) was the inspiration behind Caliban’s Dream as performed by Sir Kenneth Branagh at the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics.
Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises,
Sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.
Literary references also abound, with the most well-known one coming from Oscar Wilde, ‘The nineteenth century dislike of Realism is the rage of Caliban seeing his own face in a glass. The nineteenth century dislike of Romanticism is the rage of Caliban not seeing his own face in a glass.’
The Tempest was first performed at Court in 1611 and was probably the last play written by Shakespeare.
My version of the play was an EMCP access edition PDF.
I’m not sure I will ever read an unknown play again. I’m obviously one of those people who needs to see a play to make sense of it. There is an art to reading a play that I do not have the skill to unpack.
The only real satisfaction I got from this one (besides spotting the famous quotes and making the Caliban/Hag-Seed connection) was the post-reading research.
Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
Since writing this post, I’ve been thinking about and talking about which Shakespeare play is my favourite. Turns out it’s harder to answer this question than I initially thought. Mr Books comes down on the side of A Merchant of Venice, which I do like a lot. But I tend to be a little more frivolous and romantic when it comes to Shakespeare and I’m leaning towards Much Ado About Nothing or Taming of the Shrew. But then again, I’ve seen so many different versions of Romeo and Juliet over the years, it feels like the play I know best of all.
But if I really had to pick a favourite, it might just be Macbeth.
Out damn spot and double, double, toil, and trouble.
Witches, the conniving Lady Macbeth and the guilty, tormented Macbeth.
Political intrigue, psychological angst and power struggles.
It all makes for great drama and tension.
The original why-dunnit.
What about you?
What’s your favourite Shakespeare?